Elebits – Game review on the half-ass

When the Wii Remote was first unveiled, people mostly reacted with disgust, myself included. Of course, it grew on me rather quickly, but other people needed more convincing. Now, a few months after the console made its debut, the masses have clearly warmed up to the “Wiimote” and its unusual method of game playing. The Wii has been a smashing success, and a big part of that is due to the simple and effective controller.

So what’s the magic behind the Wii Remote that makes it more desirable than a regular controller, much like a delicious, fresh chocolate cake is more desirable than week-old brussels sprouts? I’m thinking for most people that it’s because they can play tennis and bowling without the need to remember sixteen-plus buttons. Yeah, that sounds about right. But today, I’m interested in a feature of the Remote that’s more of a draw to real gamers than the people that only pick up a controller when everyone else is doing it. I’m talking about its awesome ability to play first-person shooters.

The Wii launched with at least two FPS games, and a couple more were released not too long after. Three months later, I’d still never tried one, despite the fact that I really wanted to see how well the Wii Remote actually worked with shooters. Not long ago, my youngest brother suggested renting the quirky Konami title, Elebits, and wanting to give it a spin myself, I figured that it couldn’t possibly hurt. So I rented it, and the rest is history. History what is about to be explained!

Now I guess the review of Elebits is really the main focus here, but I really want to get to this pointer thing right away, because it really knocked my socks off. Like I said in the last paragraph there, I’d never really played a Wii shooter. Sure, Rayman Raving Rabbids has shooting levels, but they’re on-rails, and you never do much more than aim. They’re fun, but you can’t even turn the camera, so you don’t get the feel of truly playing a shooter. Even though the Wiimote’s pointing capabilities were really touted for Zelda: Twilight Princess, and you do a lot of arrow-shooting in that particular entry in the series, it still didn’t play like an FPS would.

With all that said, when my brother and I arrived home, we popped in the Elebits disc and went right into it. It didn’t strike me right away, but I didn’t even have to figure out the intricacies of the controls. It just happened. Moving, aiming, turning; it was all so natural that I was kicking major ass right from the start. Every other controller, from the N64 beast to the Dualshock to the XBox controller, even mouse and keyboard, required some kind of learning curve when it came to FPS games. With the Wii Remote though, I pretty much turned on the game and was playing flawlessly. I didn’t even realize that I had hopped in so seamlessly until I’d taken the game back, and that was when I started getting really excited about Metroid Prime 3.

And that pretty much takes care of the section of the review that explains how well the controls work. But what about the game itself? What is Elebits all about? Is it any good? Did I waste my time and money on the venture? Continue reading to find all those answers and more! By the way, that was a pretty damned good intro, don’t you think?

So Elebits. If you’ve been on the internet and looked it up even just a little, you’ve probably seen that it’s gotten really mixed reactions from the public. And I can definitely see why. It’s a rather odd game, and the common comparison is that it’s like a shooter version of Katamari Damacy. Now that right there is gonna confuse the fuck out of anyone who’s never so much as heard more than the title of the game, so I guess I owe an explaination.Both games are about collecting things. You travel around a small area and pick up stuff, and once you’ve filled a certain quota, the area expands and you can continue collecting more junk in new places. The big difference is that in Katamari Damacy, you collect everything with a really sticky ball, and in Elebits, you’re hunting down tiny little creatures and sucking them up into an energy gun. Because it’s so overdone (see every other Elebits review), I’ll try to refrain from making comparisons to Katamari where possible. Sometimes it just makes sense.

The game’s plot is a bit dumb and rather unnecessary (unlike that in Katamari, which is extremely dumb, and irrefutably necessary), with the little elebits being the source of all power on the planet. One day a really big bolt of lightning hits and the Elebits go nuts, causing a worldwide blackout. Your job is to round up as many as you can in hopes of restoring power to whateverland. Yeah, I’d rather just play the game than hear an explanation of why I’m playing.

SO! Now that we’ve got a task, how is it accomplished? After some malarkey about the Capture Gun, you’re dropped into level one, which just happens to be your room. Of course, it’s not your room per se, but rather your character’s room. But I guess you’d probably figured out that much. If the Wii was magical enough to replicate your room in a game on it’s own, I think it would have been that machine people were getting shot over instead of the PS3 (Which is still confusing. Why would you want that overpriced hunk of scrap?).

The idea of the game is to find elebits. Obviously. But it’s not so simple. Whilst some elly-bits are in fact just taking a nap out in the open, the most of them are hiding in or behind the various objects scattered around the environment. That’s where your capture gun’s secondary function as a junk-mover come in handy. Just aim the gun at an object, and BAM you can lift it into the air with a magical beam of death. Or magic perhaps. Anyway, from that point, you can do what you wish with the object. Flip it around some, smash it against other stuff (physics!), or toss it across the room. Either way, you’ll likely have found some elebits in or behind it. Once you shoot enough of the little bastards (and thus increase your “wattage”), the lights will turn on, and after picking up even more, you’ll have cleared the stage.

But of course it’s not just that easy. No, of course not. As you may have expected, on each and every stage, you’re saddled with a time limit, no matter how outrageous the wattage requirement may be. And really, that’s not a big problem. Most stages give you more than ample time to find enough elebits to reach your target, but then the letter grades come into play. Yep, after every stage, you get a rank, from C to S (maybe there’s lower, but I never scored that poorly). And you just know that passing stages by the hair in your nose won’t rake in those magnificent S ranks. Nope, you gotta reach your target real quick-like and go far above and beyond it. But it’s all worth it when you see those shiny golden esses smiling back at you.

The time limit isn’t even the biggest obstacle to overcome. Remember how I said you can lift stuff with your gun-beam dealie? Well turns out it can only lift so much without a li’l boost. So you need to collect special power elebits to increase its lifty power. But those elebits are hiding in appliances what must be turned on! And let’s remember for a second here that the whole whatever is blacked out. Yup. So the basic rigamarole in a stage goes like this: get normal elebits for watts, enough watts activate appliances, use appliances to flush out power elebits, power up gun by getting those power elebits, repeat. The best part is that some appliances are more tricky to use than just pressing the “ON” switch. The oven, for example, requires you to put in a frozen chicken and then let said chicken cook before the little ele-bastards pop out all over the place.

The first few levels are easy, and even quite fun with these simple rules, and if the game stayed the same until the end, then I may have finished it. But of course, in the interest of “keeping it fresh” new problems are introduced regularly. First you get this horrible restriction on breaking things. It’s annoying, but easy enough to get around, because you just have to make sure to set breakable things down gingerly instead of flinging them into the nearest wall. The second limit they impose on you is the really stupid noise restriction. It’s an even worse problem, because the game decides what is and isn’t noisy quite arbitrarily, and you’ll often get docked points for dropping a tissue, while pushing over a bookshelf and all its contents may not even register on the meter. Pain in the ass is all it is. I’ve unjustly failed many a mission because of it.

There are a wide variety of elebits to capture. As I mentioned, you’ve got the regular elebits who come in different colors and have different abilities, like being able to warp around or fly. The power elebits don’t really require more explanation than I gave earlier. Then you’ve got the pain-in-the-ass black elebits, who can’t be captured, and are just there to screw you over and break your capture gun. There are even huge black ones that show up when you’ve made too much of a mess, and they actively seek you out to punish you for your slovenly ways. Pink elebits come three to a level, two are hidden and one appears if you clear a certain requirement, and if you get them, you’ll open up new game modes for each level (Score Attack, Eternal, and Challenge modes).

Worst of all are the boss elebits. I mean, I only got far enough to have to face off with one of them, but he was a real jerk, so I assume the rest are no better. In any case, the one boss I fought would split into smaller versions of himself, which would hide away. Once you found one, you’d blast it to destroy a barrier around it, and then it would zoom right the fuck away. Of course, as you do better, the little copies get smaller, faster, and harder to shoot, and it really becomes troublesome. It wasn’t really hard, but it was rather annoying.

Other than the main game, there are lots of neat little things to dick around with that would have sold the game to me if the rules didn’t get so dumb in the story mode. For one, you’ve got plenty of collections to gawk at, an elebit room and object viewer to just scratch the surface. There’s also some game modifiers that you can enable once you clear enough challenge missions, but the ones I saw just make the game harder and more annoying, so they weren’t really a desirable bonus. Of course, there’s multiplayer too, and it’s essentially just playing the regular stages with more than one player, but rather than trying to pass the stage, it’s just a race to see who can get the most elebits. It’s kind of neat that everyone plays on one screen, and the camera control is either designated to one player, or will switch around to different players randomly. At least, it works well with only two people. I imagine that a four-player game might get a little cluttered.

What might be the most notable facet of Elebits is that it’s the first actual game to make use of the WiiConnect24 feature. You can modify any stage you’ve completed and then anyone on your friends list can give the stage a download and vice versa. You can also share screenshots (which you can take in-game) with others, and I think there’s some other use for them, but nobody on my friends list has either played Elebits or created any levels, so I didn’t really get a chance to make use of the feature. I didn’t really even bother creating any of my own stages, to tell the truth.

The graphics and sound don’t really stick out at all, but then again, why would they? Elebits is a first-generation Wii game, so it’s obviously not gonna use all the console’s power. There’s also the fact that the graphics are relatively simple (maybe not Katamari simple), so it’s not like they really could have improved without completely changing the art direction. The music is peppy but ultimately forgettable, though the various elebit squeaks are always endearing. I don’t think I need to explain again how awesomely the controls work. Any real issues (like doors that won’t stay open) are with the game itself, and not at all at the fault of the control configuration.

Overall, Elebits is a solid game. For the most part anyway. It brings a good idea to the table, but it quickly gets bogged down by irritating rules and way too much clutter (the game is essentially about making a big mess, after all). I can’t say that I wholeheartedly recommend it. At least not for full price. After a year or so, when it’s hopefully gone down to maybe like $20, then I could see picking it up. As it stands though, Elebits is really just a renter. Maybe twice if you really want to get everything you can from it. There’s a lot of crap to collect (though to be fair, it’s all entirely optional). I guess if I need to letter grade it for you guys too lazy to read the whole review, I’s say it’s probably a C+ at best. And a high one at that. I just can’t justify a B of any sort for this one, because I didn’t even play halfway through the game, and that alone should say enough.

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